Cells are the building blocks of tissue, and tissues are the basic unit of function in the body. Generally, groups of cells make and secrete their own support structures, called extra-cellular matrix. This matrix, or scaffold, does more than just support the cells; it also acts as a relay station for various signaling molecules. Thus, cells receive messages from many sources that become available from the local environment. Each signal can start a chain of responses that determine what happens to the cell. By understanding how individual cells respond to signals, interact with their environment, and organize into tissues and organisms, researchers have been able to manipulate these processes to mend damaged tissues or even create new ones.
The process often begins with building a scaffold from a wide set of possible sources, from proteins to plastics. Once scaffolds are created, cells with or without a cocktail of growth factors can be introduced. If the environment is right, a tissue develops. In some cases, the cells, scaffolds, and growth factors are all mixed together at once, allowing the tissue to self-assemble.
Another method to create new tissue uses an existing scaffold. The cells of a donor organ are stripped and the remaining collagen scaffold is used to grow new tissue. This process has been used to bioengineer heart, liver, lung, and kidney tissue. This approach holds great promise for using scaffolding from human tissue discarded during surgery and combining it with a patients own cells to make customized organs that would not be rejected by the immune system.
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Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine | National Institute of ...
Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith